Forget about the fact that, with fuel prices having gone up a billion per cent in recent months, we already have a driver-deterring carbon tax. Forget about the fact that it is unfair to people on fixed incomes (like the elderly) and the poor (who have to heat their homes and buy food, too), and is therefore profoundly un-Liberal. Forget about the fact that it neglects to tax other dangerous greenhouse gases. Forget about the fact that we would all like to see political parties investing in things like electric cars, instead of continuing to invest in internal combustion engines (and not just lunging at our wallets all the time). Forget about the fact that not a single voter - not one - will ever be convinced that a government will apply the resulting mountains of revenue to helping the environment and not, say, paving a road in someone's riding. Forget about all of that.
It's bad politics. It is already confusing voters. It therefore gives the Tories a Hell of an opening to swift boat the Liberals on the environment - again (a six-year-old could write the attack spots). It reinforces the impression that federal Libs are utterly disconnected from the day-to-day lives of real Canadians, sipping lattés at Starbucks and listening to CBC Two, while the Tories are down at Tim's with 30 million other regular folks, talking hockey.
Here's my point: if you want to advocate a policy that will contribute to you losing, then you will not get an opportunity to enact that policy. And, if your loss is a big one - say, September 4, 1984 big - then you render your policy Kryptonite, and ensure (à la John Tory, with his funding of private religious schools thing) no political party will ever go near it again.
I'm not saying no to a carbon tax. I'm saying no to a carbon tax now.
Fair points, this type of policy is rife with risk, potentially a disaster, nobody disputes that. I don't necessarily agree that Dion's plan would be "bad politics", it depends on the packaging, the delivery and having the necessary time and space to engage. Add Warren's voice to a growing list of opinions on the theoretical, which is really the point after all.
The most curious part about this debate, there is nothing concrete, there is no plan, there are no initiatives. Everyone has run in different directions, implying this, it will hurt them, it will help that, and yet, we know NOTHING. The Liberals haven't released their policy, it's really all speculation, so the fuss is really a constructed mirage.
I keep hearing concerns that the Tories have already out-flanked the Liberals, framed them into a corner, because Dion has mused without delivering, dithered while he gets tattooed. I think that is absolute nonsense, how can you be attacked and defined, when you don't even know what were talking about here? What we see now is all just background noise, as everyone test drives their lines and spin. And, therein lies the beauty of the present state.
As I commented at Kinsella's, we should look at this period as if the Liberals are conducting a free national focus group. All the various columns and reaction are within the prism of the theoretical, it allows the Liberals to test the waters, gauge the appetite, see the hurdles, map the challenges, without actually diving in. In many respects the Liberals are on the sidelines, as everyone else digests the merits and pitfalls of a carbon tax, using various models. What I'm saying, the Liberals have the benefit to change the policy before it is actually released. Having ideas floated about, isn't necessarily a bad development in the long view, because the Liberals still ultimately control, they have the power of pragmatism, the ability to react, without actually having committed. Rarely does a political party enjoy such latitude. Let's just hope that Dion and company are watching intently, and react accordingly.